ISMRM meeting format addresses society's many-faceted persona

August 1, 2005

The International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine has had a split personality ever since the Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and the Society of Magnetic Resonance Imaging combined into a single professional association 14 years ago.

The International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine has had a split personality ever since the Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and the Society of Magnetic Resonance Imaging combined into a single professional association 14 years ago.

On the one hand, it occupies the mainstream, accommodating the educational needs of community-based radiologists who perform clinical MRI within the constraints of reimbursable medical practice. On the other hand, the ISMRM infiltrates the laboratory, defying convention and challenging orthodoxy to increase the diagnostic power of this surprisingly malleable imaging tool.

The 2005 ISMRM meeting in Miami demonstrated how the two sides of the society's personality can be reconciled. Scientific committee chair Dr. Vivian Lee formulated a solution that expanded the meeting's clinical educational component to produce a better balance with the world-class basic research presentations that have been the hallmark of past gatherings.

"We wanted to fill what we in the society view as a definite need among clinical imagers, mostly radiologists, to really understand the MR physics and get into the nitty-gritty of the technology in order to appreciate all the amazing new advances we are seeing in the clinic," Lee said in an interview with Diagnostic Imaging.

The strategy worked. Paid attendance at the meeting topped 4500, more than 20% higher than the record set at the 2000 conference in Glasgow, Scotland. From more than 4000 submitted abstracts, a record 2831 papers and posters were accepted for presentation.

The emphasis of the ISMRM's traditional weekend educational programming was generally more practical than in past years. A full-day clinical overview gave newcomers a tour of MR physics and major applications groups. A two-day course in MR physics was geared toward physicists, and detailed all-day symposia covered major applications.

Morning categorical courses throughout the week gave community-based practitioners a reason to stick around. The one-hour courses covering eight areas of interest were repeated every day. The program was conveniently color-coded to guide specialists to sessions in their area of interest.

Although some plenary sessions were extremely technical, organizing the lectures according to the theme "MRI at different scale" enabled nonacademic clinicians to appreciate the modality's effect on research and practice. Psychiatry, oncology, and cardiology were covered on the opening day, followed by sessions on tissue oxygenation, stem cell tracking, whole-body applications, and functional neuro, cardiac, and kinematic imaging.

The body of research reflects MRI's transition, at least on the experimental level, from an anatomic to physiologic modality. Research either exploiting or improving the performance of parallel imaging was the star of the show. The first radiofrequency transmit applications of parallel imaging were proposed, and a 96-channel head coil that both interrogates the brain and boggles the mind was introduced.

The fast pace of scientific progress was apparent in many presentations. The possibility of stem cell labeling was first mentioned at last year's conference in Kyoto. This year's meeting featured a plenary session and dozens of papers on the topic. Diffusion tensor imaging was the newest thing in MRI in 2002. Now, normal tensor patterns in the brains of elderly subjects, adults, children, infants, and even fetuses have been characterized.

The ability to attract more community-based clinicians to the ISMRM meeting may help accelerate the adoption into clinical use of techniques featured there. Community-based clinicians were introduced to advanced imaging concepts that may ultimately lead to faster acceptance when applications based on these theories are ready for the field.